Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Warrantless surveillance

The Senate Intelligence Committee has approved a bill, sponsored by Ohio Senator Mike DeWine, outlining procedures for warrantless wiretapping of communications in which one party is overseas and at least one party is suspected of belonging to or collaborating with a known terrorist group: the government can do so for 45 days, after which it must either seek a warrant from the FISA Court or certify that national security requires its continuation to a newly-created subcommittee. The Administration says that it welcomes this effort to "codify the President’s authority."

I find this reminiscent of the War Powers Resolution, which purports to establish procedures for introducing U.S. troops into combat situations. Presidents have always claimed inherent authority to do so and have regarded following the WPR as a kind of courtesy, rather than as a legal requirement. Similarly, no one should make the assumption here that the Bush Administration is conceding that it needs Congressional authorization to conduct this surveillance.

Discussions - 3 Comments

The ironic thing is that even within the United States warrentless searches are legally done on people and people’s property day in and day out.

This amounts to an offical recognition of the President’s authority. Expect it to be watered down enough that it recognizes that sometimes two ends of the conversation will be temporarily on US territory.

#2 Garrett:

I am sure you’re right on. If 2 or more terrorists are plotting war crimes by phone and both are in the U.S., the President has Article 2 powers to listen in. I would like to think this, as well as bugging certain mosques has been going on since 9-11. Article 2 trumps any and all statutes to the contrary. Cindy Sheehan? Brian Coughlan? No. They don’t pose national security risks. Imams and Mosques? Yes.

Coughlan, ary you listening? It would be a crime for the President of the United States to listen to anything you have to say.

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